In case you do not have your Dallas Cowboys’ yearly organizational chart on your fridge: Since being named head coach, Jason Garrett has replaced play-callers twice — himself, Bill Callahan — and gone through three defensive coordinators — Paul Pasqualoni, Rob Ryan, Monte Kiffin.
Now, Scott Linehan will be the team’s passing-game coordinator, and he will call the plays. Because, as Garrett told us this time last year, we were all making a big deal out of nothing in terms of the play-calling.
It wasn’t a big deal until Garrett decided it was, which comes on the heels of the Cowboys being one of the most imbalanced teams in the league. As Garrett told us, don’t look at him; Callahan called the plays in 2013.
Callahan will remain on staff, perhaps to be the team’s run-game coordinator. Ironic because last season, under Callahan, the Cowboys ran the ball the second-fewest times in the NFL.
This means the Cowboys will have three coaches who have been play-callers in the past two years.
Rod Marinelli will replace Monte Kiffin as the defensive coordinator; Kiffin will remain as “assistant head coach/defense,” whatever that means.
What’s the point of keeping Kiffin and Callahan on staff, other than maybe they can pick up Jerry’s dry cleaning? These are veteran guys who should be allowed to leave with some dignity and self-respect.
While we in the evil media, or fans, believe that Garrett is often undercut and neutered by his boss, the coach now has himself to blame, too. It may not be entirely his fault, because of the Jerry Factor, but the perception now is that the Cowboys are overloaded with chiefs and not enough quality players led by a lame-duck head coach. After so much mediocrity, it is growing increasingly difficult to believe in Garrett’s rhetoric.
For instance ...
At the 2011 NFL Combine, Garrett said of the decision to hire Ryan: “He has a great background as a college coach, the different stops he made and certainly the NFL as well. He’s been around winners his whole life. He has a system that fits our players. We wanted to have a 3-4 guy and that was important to us, and we interviewed a number of guys who ran that scheme and he was just a guy that was so impressive in his background.”
Rob Ryan was fired two years later.
When the Cowboys replaced Ryan with Kiffin in January 2013, Garrett said in a statement: “I am really looking forward to the contributions that he will make to our coaching staff and our football team. He has produced NFL defensive units that have consistently performed at a high level in a scheme that has stood the test of time.”
Kiffin was demoted after one season.
On Jan. 20, 2012, shortly after the Cowboys hired Callahan, Garrett said: “He’s had great run offenses. He’s had great pass offenses. To have that exposure to him, a guy who has so much experience, he’s just going to help us in so many ways.”
On that day, Garrett predicted there would come a time when Callahan would replace him as primary play-caller, which happened one year later. One season after Callahan’s tenure as play-caller, he had that responsibility taken away.
In defense of Garrett, or any coach who has ever introduced a major change, he must sell and believe in the new move. You can, and I often do, have great fun going over old articles and sound bites that resulted in duds.
The indictment on Garrett is not his enthusiasm, but the fact, with each change, it grows increasingly harder to buy what he is selling. How are we supposed to believe it when he says of Linehan: “The opportunity to add someone of Scott Linehan’s expertise and experience will benefit our offensive unit, and we believe the combination of him and Bill Callahan working closely together will give us a great chance to build upon the strides we made offensively last year.”
Strides so great that he felt it was necessary to demote his play-caller.
Despite his best efforts, the results are watering down the impact of his rhetoric. After a little more than three years as head coach, he is dangerously approaching that point when the players themselves can’t buy it, either. That is another reason why Jerry can’t, and should not, give him a contract extension.
How Garrett has maintained his players’ interest, despite the record, is impressive. Not everyone can do that.
Eventually the results are going to carry more weight than his words, or his intentions, and that Cowboys’ yearly organizational chart on your fridge will change again.
Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.